Arab press hails prisoner-swap deal

Almost unanimous celebration among Arabic media; Al Jazeera, and main competitor Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya, each cover deal extensively.

Palestinian prisoners in Israel's Ketziot prison 311 (R) (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
Palestinian prisoners in Israel's Ketziot prison 311 (R)
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
Arabic media reacted to last week’s news of Israel’s 1,000-to- 1 prisoner exchange with Hamas with almost unanimous celebration.
The main pan-Arab and national television channels all ran the swap deal prominently with the exception of Syria’s state-run station, according to the international media aggregator BBC Monitoring.
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Al Jazeera, and its main competitor, Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya, each covered the deal extensively. Al Jazeera devoted a large part of its main bulletin to the story, while the Saudi network took a more pessimistic tone, highlighting Hamas’s failure to secure the release of Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and high-profile terrorist leaders Ahmed Sa’adat and Abdullah Barghouti.
Iran’s Arabic-language Al- Alam covered the story extensively as well, though the Islamic Republic’s Farsi media had surprisingly little to say on the deal.
Palestinian news outlets, whether linked to Hamas or Fatah, also praised the deal. Filastin, the Hamas-run newspaper that is the most read paper in Gaza, ran a giant lead picture Wednesday of Palestinian children raising their fingers in a victory sign and waving green Hamas flags. “The resistance wins and breaks the occupation’s handcuffs,” ran the lead headline.
News outlets affiliated with Fatah also acknowledged the exchange, though without giving its Hamas rivals as much credit. Ramallah-based Al- Ayyam carried images of Palestinians injured in an Israeli army crackdown on a protest in front of Ofer Prison the day before. Protesters were voicing support for Palestinian prisoners on a two-week hunger strike demanding better conditions.
In Egypt, a key mediator of the deal, the Muslim Brotherhood’s website praised the prisoner exchange.
“Dr. Mohamed Saad Katatni, secretary-general of the [Brotherhood’s] Freedom and Justice Party, praised Egypt’s role in the completion of a deal to release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the Zionist soldier Schalit,” said the Islamist group’s English-language homepage Ikhwanweb. “Katatni stressed the need for continued efforts by the Egyptian authorities to bring about radical solutions to end the suffering of the Palestinian people and lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
The only criticism of the deal voiced in the Arab world’s press was that it did not go far enough.
“While this is a welcome development to be celebrated, let us not rejoice without a measure of caution. For this is not only about Sergeant Schalit and 1,027 nameless prisoners,” wrote Shawan Jabarin, director of the Ramallah-based rights group Al-Haq, in an op-ed Friday in The National, an English-language daily based in Abu Dhabi.
“It also concerns another 5,000 political prisoners, their families and the continued denial of basic human rights to Palestinians in Israeli prisons and indeed across the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a whole.
“For Sergeant Schalit the suffering is coming to an end, and rightfully so,” he wrote. “For every Palestinian, for those in detention and those in their homes, their imprisonment continues.”
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